Several months ago, my brother-in-law, a successful private entrepreneur and civil engineer, asked me what brand of acoustic guitar is a better one: Martin or Taylor. I had told him I honestly don’t know. As a person struggling to make ends meet only with music, I couldn’t afford myself to purchase either, so I’ve never really researched the subject, not even with a cursory glance. I should point out that my brother-in-law is not really into music, even as a casual hobbyist. He is frequently so consumed with his work that he doesn’t have enough time for spending it with his family or for his other interests. At the time, I’ve thought he’s asking out of sheer curiosity or just trying to find a common subject for conversation, especially since he didn’t mention it any more after that.
However, recently I went to babysit my three years old niece at their apartment and in one of the rooms I’ve stumbled across an expensive-looking acoustic guitar case lying on the floor. I’ve thought: so, he choose another hobby, after all. Of course, the curiosity had the best of me so I’ve opened the case. And there it was: lying inside was a brand new Taylor acoustic guitar. As I’ve said before, I’m not really an expert on expensive guitar brands, but I do know that there isn’t such thing as an affordable Taylor, at least not by my standards. Looking at it, I’ve thought about my recently purchased Tanglewood Evolution acoustic guitar, one of the most comfortable ones I’ve had over the years. It had cost me about 300$ with the discount. I’ve made another glance at my brother-in-law’s Taylor, not even taking the note of its model, then I’ve quietly closed down the lid. (A few days later, I went to the Taylor’s website and remembering of the distinctive decorative pattern on the neck of the guitar, I’ve found out that this particular model is actually in the top tier of the company’s products).
We live in times that are in many ways a dream come true for buyers. The market is huge and there is a right price for everyone. The days when label “Made in China” meant poor craftsmanship are long gone. Today, the products of the world’s most respected companies are regularly manufactured there. The same is true for musical instruments and equipment. And while the production process has been brought to the perfection due to the ever improving modern technology, it is bit naive thinking there isn’t any catch behind an affordable price. One of those is certainly the quality of raw materials and the smoothness of the final touch in the mass production environment. But even so, this doesn’t necessarily mean that such product is not worth considering and is not suitable for any more serious, even professional use.
Even in this day and age, with obvious benefits of the mass production, you’ll often come across those who consider themselves as connoisseurs and experts, and who would at least dismissively frown at everything made in China as a bad joke. In music, this is especially true when talking about guitars. Like I’ve said before, I’m by no means an expert for expensive instruments due to my own limited experience with them. I understand that there must be a significant difference with the usage of the finest materials, rigorous quality control and the touch of the craftsman himself. But is this difference really so huge in the terms of sheer usability? I think not. I’ve read somewhere that some world-renowned guitarist had said that the key difference between affordable and expensive instruments lies in the comfort of the use. It’s a pity that only a selected few can indulge in this luxury, often those for whom the music is not life’s calling but a whim of a weekend. But at the end of the day I must quote my mother who often says: “It’s not the instrument, but the person behind it that matters”.